The Sculpture on the Cliffs exhibition is one of the cornerstones of Hermanus’ unique, home-grown FynArts Festival. Every year, renowned South African artists, many of whom enjoy world-wide recognition, are invited to take part in this outdoor exhibition at Gearing’s Point on our spectacular Cliff Path.

This year the theme of the exhibition is ‘The Human Figure’, an enduring subject in the world of art. The works of this year’s ten participating artists display a wide diversity of material, technique, function, belief and purpose in a way that is sensitive to both site and context.

As has happened in previous years, these works have elicited equally diverse responses and comments on social media. Negative sentiments that have been expressed include labelling some of the works as “trash”, “rubbish” or “awful”, and calling for them to be removed.

Local artist and curator Jaco Sieberhagen considers it a pity that some residents are unable to appreciate the significance of these artworks and suggested to The Village NEWS that we enlighten our readers with a little information regarding these sculptures. It is our hope that, instead of succumbing to a knee-jerk reaction, our readers may be enlightened – and even inspired – by the stories and motivations behind these works.

1. Ruhan Janse van Vuuren Title: #thethirdseason

#thethirdseason symbolises a transitional phase, an autumn so to speak. The sculpture forms the landscape of the work itself, and will continuously change as a result of the actions of artist Bastian van Stenis, who will add his brushwork over time by using the sculpture as a canvas. The work is a transitional piece that is positioned on the border between fine art and street art. In street art the artists aim to reclaim the spaces of their identity, and the perceived vandalism of the work redefines the notion of ownership and value. As the process of #thethirdseason continues to evolve over the coming months, the meaning will become redefined according to an individual’s experience thereof.

2. Marco Cianfanelli Title: Cerebral Aspect (series)

Marco Cianfanelli’s previous explorations of the human brain as form, find new dimension in a series of digitally altered brain-like objects. The faceted forms of the objects are geometric distillations of the brain’s vast, organic topography and, in their dramatic simplification, act to acknowledge the limits of our knowledge.

The geometric brain is a symbol that embodies the human desire to identify categorically and represent symbolically, an unquantifiable flux of information. The expansive potential of the brain is enclosed in a geometric case that speaks of the exteriority of the brain’s housing, and asks for an archaeological understanding of the form through its absence. These geometric vessels explore questions of where and how we locate the ‘self’ within the body and suggest that one’s personality is analogous with the brain as organ.

Condensing the intricacy of the organ into reduced, geometric forms allows it to adopt the appearance of a Palaeolithic stone implement. The subtext reads of violence, of defense and survival and in their materiality, the forms point to a duality between progress and destruction inherent in technological advancement.

Displacing organic materials and natural processes in favour of synthetics and digital rendering, the brain has become the site of devaluation as a direct result of the proliferation of digital technology. More than implements, these objects are artifacts of the present and, whether viewed as monoliths in a landscape or implements of survival, they conjure the past and hypothesise a future trajectory. They speak to the collection of significant historical artifacts and mark our technological evolution, locating us in time and suggesting that our greatest and most dangerous tool is, in fact, our brain.

3. Haidee Nel Title: Meerlin

In the story of Haidee’s work The Mermaid is the next logical narrative after The infantry Girl series, which raised the question: How do we protect our children? How can children protect themselves? “In a sense we all carry some hurt or disappointment from our childhood within ourselves,” says the artist. “The question is how we deal with this pain and how do we prevent it from solidifying in us and being passed on to our children and their children? How can we effectively handle the pain without internalising it, resulting in eventual abusive expression?”

The harsh realisation of escalating violence against children urged Haidee to create this work, asking the question: Do children have to wear heavy armour for protection against their own frailty and the confused values of humankind? The artist realises that, while the Infantry Girls is a monument to all who have experienced pain and abuse, armour cannot become a permanent state of being. The Mermaid, in contrast, is a monument to those who turn this pain into beauty.

In this work the armour is transformed into a fragile-looking fish tail garment, rotating out of the emotional waters into the light the sun. In the next chapter, The Mermaid is about regaining beauty, sensuality and innocence; about shape shifting what was once before. Death to the victim. Life to the Hero. The battle won by consciousness shifting. The gift of accepting suffering and pain is a new life, a pursuit to find true love. Lightness of being.

4. Lwandiso Njara Title: Catholic Altar Boy’s Toys IV

Growing-up in a traditional Xhosa household, Lwandiso Njara’s Catholic schooling by nuns from India and Switzerland exposed him to different ideologies and technologies. His work is centred around the contrast of Xhosa ancestral rituals and his Catholic education. In his pieces he tries to combine the influences of these lifestyles in a questioning way that moves beyond binary opposites that imply the one is superior to the other. “I take the necessary from each and use them to construct a new identity that is multiple in its reading,” says the artist.

In Catholic Altar Boy’s Toys IV, Njara depicts his understanding of a changing identity – as influenced by his upbringing, spiritual awakening and development during his boyhood years in rural Transkei. It is simultaneously a contemporary work and a reference to bygone times and experiences. “I believe that my work resembles or explores the new contemporary robotic or technological African urban identity,” he says. He often blatantly merges polarities in one body through using the lamb, the goat and the cow, fused with mechanical gears and engines, all acting as signifiers for the artist’s own hybrid sense of contemporary African identity.

The message is that identities are not necessarily singular and fixed, but could be multifaceted and fragmented. His work is often unpolished and raw, exposing the internal workings of machines through tools, cogs and mechanisms. Although Njara’s work conveys a personal investigation of his identity, this exploration can be applied to a collective consciousness, where the diversity within South Africa is creating a hybrid third culture, and essential, separatist, understandings of identity are disappearing as our nation becomes trans-conscious.

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